I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

“Highway #2 Los Angeles, California, USA, 2003” ©Edward Burtynsky

I’ve been wondering lately if I’m ready to write this post. The post where I tell you what I’m doing here, on this blog and with my life. You can tell from my first post that I haven’t been ready to explain myself yet. That my motivations and goals are unclear, even to myself.

Getting clear on my own motivations and goals is very important to me. I basically have three therapists right now for exactly this reason. (One is a traditional talk therapist who’ve I’ve been seeing since I lived in NYC, one is a somatic therapist in Berkeley, and one is a good friend who has started coaching people through career transitions.)

So what have all these insightful people helped me come to understand about motivations and goals? They are a moving target. Like anything else, especially things like being happy or satisfied, they are not something to attain, but something to work on every day for the rest of your life.

That’s why this explanation post is hard to write, because my ideas for what this blog should be change quite literally every few hours. Or rather, they expand. I do not abandon my original ideas for what I want this to be when I have a new one, I just pile it on top. So now I have so many goals, the idea of encapsulating them in one post is overwhelming, daunting to the point that I’ve been unable to start until just now.

Let’s try this. I’ll write down all my ideas that I can think of. Knowing myself, I’ll probably think I’ve just made things worse by the time I get to the end, but I’m promising you right now that I won’t erase any of it. Ready? Ok, here goes….

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I love working with people. I love talking to people and hearing their stories. And photo people are some of my favorite people to talk and work with. I got to do that regularly when I was editing RESOLVE; when I quit, I started thinking of ways to incorporate that into my current sabbatical.

For the next six months I’ll be traveling around the country and a bit in Europe, mostly seeing friends and searching for the root of my own passions. Many of those friends are photo people, and since I’m very interested in the idea of creative collaboration, I decided I’d like to put together some projects with them while I’m in town.

I’ve observed the power and importance of collaboration many times in my work on RESOLVE. In The Future of Photobooks, we saw many artists joining forces, almost always from far ends of the earth, aided by new social technologies. And one of the main reasons I created the AFTER STAFF project was to help photographers who had lost the close, caring atmosphere of the newsroom feel connected to others who were going through the same thing. That project uncovered several groups that have already formed to take the place of that kind of collaborative community. I also organized a webinar for OPEN-i about collectives and the ways that teams can weather the fluctuating media landscape better than lone individuals.

Personally I’m drawn to artistic collaboration, too. I’m giving more attention to my own creative impulses these days, but because I’ve suppressed those urges for so long, because I was afraid of people’s rejection, creative endeavors are overwhelming for me. I realized that working with professional creatives in the cities I visit would help me gain confidence in my own creativity.

Listening to feedback from friends, I also realized that these questions and doubts about the creative process are common to all artists, maybe all people. So, loving to educate and help people as I do, it only makes sense that I should write about my experiences here, in the hope that people might gain some insight from them.

On top of all that, I’ve always thought in the back of my mind about writing a memoir, mostly to satisfy a deep need to have other people know me and understand me. Now that I’m no longer “editor of the liveBooks photo blog” or “senior editor of American Photo Magazine,” I feel a particular need for people to get to know me better professionally. I’ve also decided recently that I need to get better at being myself. At making decisions based on my own needs and desires instead of the expectations of other people. At being the same person in the office that I am with my friends or my family or myself.

That’s why I want this blog to be about both my professional and personal lives. Because I don’t want those things to be separate anymore. When I discover the passion that runs deep enough  to sustain me for the rest of my life, I know it will be something that flows through every aspect of my life.

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I have trouble admitting vulnerability. I’ve heard I’m not the only one. My facade used to be very thick. I was always together, always on top of it, always OK. That works better in a professional situation than a personal one, but either way it’s unsustainable. And then I learned that it makes other people feel bad, to think I never have any problems, and that I’ll judge them for theirs. And then I learned that it actually makes me feel bad, too. Because I’ve never given people the chance to see me mess up and then decide to give me a second chance. So I’m terrified of messing up. I’m convinced that people will fire me, hate me, stop loving me if I do.

So I started admitting to people when I wasn’t OK. When I didn’t know what to do. When I knew I’d messed up. In little ways at first and then for big things. And when people didn’t condemn me for it, I was able to stop condemning myself so much. And, best of all, people felt like they could be themselves around me, that they could open up and share their own fears. And, like I said at the beginning, I love talking with people. Communicating with their honest, human center, which you can only do when you make yourself vulnerable first.

So I know that being vulnerable is also really important for this blog. I think that honesty is almost always rewarded, especially in this online world that values authenticity above almost all else (one of my favorite things about it). And I also know that another thing about making myself vulnerable is that people see I need help, instead of thinking that I never need help. And then they help me. And that feels great.

That’s why I really don’t want this blog to be about me giving anyone answers or even just sharing my own experiences. I want to share my experiences, but also ask questions, and have you respond (yes you, reading, right now). Then everyone will start responding to each other, and I can draw some major ideas out of those discussions (I like doing that 🙂 and THEN maybe some answers will arise — or at least some good ideas.

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OK, honestly, that feels like it only scratches the surface of all the things I’ve been thinking about, but I know that’s already an overwhelming number of words, so I’m leaving off. Oh, one last thing about this blog: I know I’m going to be continuing to figure out what exactly it is as long as I’m writing it. This is just one post of many.

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19 thoughts on “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

  1. “When I discover the passion that runs deep enough to sustain me for the rest of my life, I know it will be something that flows through every aspect of my life.”You couldn't have said it better and I couldn't agree more with your philosophy. You're very authentic, Miki. I never thought of you as “editor of the liveBooks photo blog”…in fact, you *were* the liveBooks photo blog. I'd be willing to bet that the majority of the readers came there because of you, not for the liveBooks products….which is why they brought you on.Your ability to create discussion and spur dialogue is what makes you very unique and I'm certain that's all you'll need for this blog, the rest will simply fall into place. I know for a fact that many people are excited to see where you land. It's a pretty cool spot you're in; 100% opportunity to do anything your heart desires moving forward….nothing to hold you back. Someday you'll look back and wonder where it went!Keep on doing your thing!Cheers,Robert

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    • Those are very kind words Robert. I want to say that I hope I live up to them, but with support from people like you, I know that I will. I expect to see more of you around these parts 🙂

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      • I totally agree with Robert. You were (are) RESOLVE and the power and expertise you used to create it is there waiting for your next point of focus. We are all anxious to see were this leads you.Jon

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      • Thanks Jon. I'm glad to have been a driving force at RESOLVE, but it never would have been what it was without all the amazing people who worked with me on it 🙂 Thanks for keeping track of me.

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  2. First of all, the blog is coming along wonderfully. Why do you, must you, know what this is for right away. You will find your own meaning but in the meantime the direction is really very good.Your writing is wonderful as well as your subject matter. Just keep it up and you'll be comfortable.I really don't think you need to find what this “is” and what your looking for in your blog writings as this may very well limit you. I'm going to get back to writing this week after a long recovery (spine surgery) and I write whereas I feel passion for something. It is the passion, Miki, that will direct you and its obvious that you have it.Just enjoy and keep it up.Sincerely,Tom

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  5. Hey Miki. I've had many of the same thoughts before and think it is great to take some time for yourself.If you're ever in the L.A. area, it would be cool to collaborate. The New Orleans slideshow was pretty cool!Good luck.

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    • Thanks Richard! I think a lot of people have had a lot of these thoughts…that's part of why I want to do this. If I can inspire a couple people to take a scary leap and try something new, I'll be happy. Not because what I'm doing is so special, but because we all have to inspire and support each other right now or there's a chance none of us will make it. I'll definitely be in L.A. some day soon. Not sure exactly when…might be this fall. Send me an email if you have any specific ideas. Would love to know what you've been working on lately 🙂

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  6. Hey Miki,I'm so glad I was reminded of this endeavor of yours while perusing LinkedIn in the aftermath of an NU networking event last night. I admire your candidness and willing to be openly vulnerable…I'm striving for the same qualities though am admittedly coming up short at the moment. I agree that we should be able to let our core selves dominate our interactions both professionally and personally, and commend you for taking the time needed to actualize such a possibility. As I work to overcome my own creative doubts and fears, I'm truly inspired by your commitment to authenticity.xo,Christina

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    • Hi Christina,It's so good to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by and saying hi. I hope we can keep in touch here while I'm traveling 🙂 Being vulnerable is hard, and something I'm only able to do with lots of support from all sides (and even then some people think I'm totally crazy). If I can inspire my friends, even a little, to do what makes them happy and be who they really are, it makes it totally worth it. Would love to know more about how you're doing and what you're up to. xoxo

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  7. In response to the discussion with Richard and Christina, I'm feeling quite relieved finding others are going through the same thing. This common bond, across huge expanses of space, time and personality is invigorating. I'm venturing into new territory for myself, not quite sure what my goals are. A friend as me this weekend, if you were to describe yourself in three words, what would they be? Or rather, if you were to meet someone, what three words would you hope they think of when you leave? I was stumped. You would've thought the glass of wine had my guard down and mind free-flowing, but for the first time, I was blank, speechless. Having something to say has never been a problem for me, but as I venture into this new territory, working on my art, finding a new career, there has been no map. Friends and family are supportive and motivating, yes, but in the end it's the world we create for ourselves, within ourselves that answers these questions we are faced with today, and for me, the past two years. Existential dilemmas always interested me, but I just cannot wait until I figure something out or when I figure out there isn't anything to figure out! You are a brave woman to share yourself with the world. Ultimately, I think this will be the new way we will begin to relate to one another, human to human, slowly and small at first but eventually on a global scale. These are exciting times we are living in!

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